Dear Dog Walker

Dear Dog Walker,

Thank you for letting me know that your dog was friendly when it bounded over suddenly to my dog, on his lead, and startled him. Thank you for letting me know that ‘he just wants to play’, as clearly my puppy is unable to do so as he is still attached to me. That’s why he has gone to ground, in full fight or flight mode, though he knows that he has nowhere to go, he can’t escape. Fortunately, we have socialised him very well and though he is small, he is mighty and definitely thinks he is bigger than he is. But you don’t know any of that, when your dog comes flying over to him.

In addition to the many high energy dogs who ‘just want to play’, last week Herbie had a pack of three dogs surround him suddenly and with little warning. Yes, yes, I know they are friendly, they only want to play. But three on one seems unfair to me and Herbie clearly thought so, too, as that encounter affected him for the next few days.

You see, when he has encounters like this, it makes him more wary of other dogs, understandably so, I think. And so for the remainder of his walk that day, he barked at every passerby and every dog on the way back to the car. He hadn’t made a sound in the half an hour prior to this and we had walked passed lots of dogs and people. He then returned home and continued to bark at people walking by our home, meaning that the following day we didn’t walk in the park as I knew the adrenaline was still surging in him. We road-walked that day instead, not as interesting for Herbie, but the better option for him in this case.

Dogs have to be under control at all times when they are in public. Herbie is, he is on his lead. Now whilst I have heard arguments for dogs having to be on a lead in all public places, I am actually not a supporter of that idea. Or at least I don’t want to be. I see plenty of dogs when we are out and about walking perfectly by their owner’s side without a lead, or responding to perfect recalls when they need to. They are clearly under control, lead or not. But the dogs who come bounding over to my dog and ignore their owner calling their name, repeatedly? That doesn’t look like ‘under control’ to me.

Herbie is not a reactive dog, at this point. When dogs stroll over calmly to him, he meets them, they sniff, they walk on by. He enjoys it. At the moment.

But I do wonder, dear dog walker, what happens when your off-lead dog flies over to a reactive dog. How do those owners respond, how does the poor dog feel in that situation? I’d imagine if they are out and about on a lead, they have been working hard to desensitise their dog to the things that make them anxious, but they are unlikely to be ready for a dog to get up in their face all of a sudden. And if they bite back, well, that’s on you.

I appreciate that you might not have thought of any of this. I appreciate that you might think it’s fine for your dog to bomb about the park running up to any dog and child that they fancy. You might think that the park is for dogs and they should be allowed to run free. You might question why my puppy is on a lead. Well, I can clear that last point up for you.

My puppy is on a lead as I do not trust that he will always come back, the first time EVERY time, if he saw another dog he wanted to play with or a person he wanted to greet. If I cannot be 100% sure that he will, then he remains with me as I do not want him upsetting other dogs or people. I cannot trust that he won’t disappear down a rabbit hole, he is a hound, it is what he is bred for. And most of all, I cannot trust that he won’t bolt when confronted with ‘friendly’ dogs all coming at him at once.

So please, dear dog walker, until you know that your dog can ignore other dogs or stay under control when they see them, can you pop them onto a lead? They might not be so lucky encountering a friendly little hound the next time and might get more than they bargained for from a frightened dog.

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6 thoughts on “Dear Dog Walker”

  1. We’ve had a few scarey moments when a dogs come bounding over. Usually the owner’s pretty good and will recall them but not always… Our dog’s often off-lead on our local playing field but if we see an unknown dog in the distance, the lead gets clipped back on. Some owners are just selfish and ignorant, which is so frustrating because our dog just wants to play (rarely gets spooked or anxious at 2 years old) but guess what? Like you, if we can’t be sure she’ll recall first time, she stays on the lead. Our doggies are just too precious and loved!

  2. My dog is on lead reactive to other dogs. She turns from being a timid girl into a furious snarling beast, she is a fairy big dog 30kg GSD/Staff so probably looks terrifying to other people. I do shout to any owners that she is reactive and to get their dog back on lead so we can pass safely. If it is more practical I go in a garden or hop the wall into a field. Luckily I know everyone round here, so they do not mind. We are working on Jess’ reactivity, but it is a long slow process. Probably stems from her being abandoned tied to a bench. I think she must have had a bad experience then. She is fine off lead, but like you with yours I do not trust her recall, especially if she sees a squirrel or other small furry.

    1. It is hard when other owners don’t appreciate what you are dealing with, as you struggle to enjoy your walks together then, don’t you? And yes, Herbie loves a squirrel!

  3. Great post. Our German Shepherd didn’t like other dogs at all and we usually walked her in fields around our home because of this. One of the main reason’s she didn’t like other dogs were because as a puppy she was surrounded and literally bowled over by a group of dogs whilst out walking. I wish all dog owners were as responsible but alas they aren’t.

    1. Oh, poor thing, that would make you very wary of other dogs. They are not and it is frustrating as upsetting other dogs could so easily be avoided.

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